iPod nano, 2005

Apple Computer

Location: Cupertino, California
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There is no question that Apple’s iPod has transformed our entire relationship to music in the twenty-first century. We can download it. We can share it. Now we can even watch music videos, television shows, and movies on our iPods, or listen to “podcasts” of our favorite radio programs. The simple device has created a community united by the thin white cables emanating from its members’ ears.

First released by Apple in 2001, the original translucent white iPod was an object that everyone wanted to own, as much for how it looked as for what it could do. Streamlined, simple, and pure, the iPod looked good next to a beautifully designed sound system or atop a mid-century modern sideboard. But it has only been during the last three years that the device’s extraordinary potential has been recognized and its range of options and functions significantly expanded.

The integration by Apple of all things “i” is a stroke of marketing genius and an indication of just how visionary the company is. In rapid succession, Apple has released new iterations of the iPod, each unique in its own way. The iPod Mini, which came in a range of pastel colors, was the smallest digital music player on the market and sold more units than any other iPod. In 2004, Apple introduced the Shuffle, a much more compact, less expensive iPod, no bigger than a pack of gum, which shuffles songs randomly every time it is turned on and was the first iPod to work with either a Mac or a PC. Then came the Nano, perhaps the most elegant of all the iPods, super-thin but capable of everything the full-sized model does. In October 2005, Apple introduced the iPod Video, transforming not only the way consumers watch moving images but also how television and motion picture companies do business.

iPod has now come to signify a revolutionary family of products born under the sign of Apple. Equally impressive is what some are calling “the iPod ecosystem”1: the torrent of accessories designed by a variety of companies in response to the iPod. These add-ons alone are a $1 billion business. Perhaps we already live in an iPod universe?